Book Review: Janny Wurts’ Curse of the Mistwraith

Posted April 17, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Janny Wurts’ Curse of the Mistwraith

Curse of the Mistwraith


Janny Wurts

fantasy that was published by HarperCollins on May 1, 2009 and has 830 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

First in the Wars of Light and Shadows fantasy series revolving around a twist in how we perceive the Light and the Dark.

My Take

This is a conflict. The story is amazing. Wurts did a great job in creating an alternate world with excellent characters — especially in creating the “bad guy” whose point of view is perfectly reasonable. Considering what’s been done to him! The difficulty — and the reason I downgraded it to a “4” is the sentence construction.

Wurts builds the most incredible sentences using big words and being rather poetic in their use. I’ve had to read many of them over and over trying to figure out what he’s saying…and I still don’t get most of ’em. [I think Patricia McKillip creates a more understandable sentence with her jewel-like lyricism.] My best recommendation is to not worry about the information the individual sentences are trying to impart lest you beat yourself up and fry your brain. As you read, the gist of what’s going on will sink in. At least it did for me! Eventually, either the sentences got easier the further into the story I read, or I got in the swing of Wurts’ rhythm.

I wish Wurts had provided a more in-depth background on why the enmity between Amroth and Karthan exists (there is one other kingdom, Rauven, in the splinter world of Dascen Elura). Of course, that would have taken us way past 800 pages… I also wish we could have gotten a reaction on how Lysaer’s father felt when he found out his son had disappeared!

Wurts gave us a very realistic look at human decision making when the sorcerers of this alternate world — Athera — are trying to choose the best way that provides the best chance of everyone’s survival and the most ideal fulfillment of the prophecy…one of those lessons in how it never works to try an end run.

It’s odd how 500 years go by and the Seven never figure out the truth behind the mist. As for all the foreknowledge the sorcerers had about Etarra, I don’t understand why backup plans were nonexistent!

I do like the snippets of information at the start of each chapter. They’re tweets with a quick introduction to this new world. Wurts also sets the scene so well that you feel the hunger, the cold, the miserable conditions the companions undergo. You can almost smell and taste his world. Snicker…I do love how the sorcerers and Arithon get around the current rulers of Etarra.

It’s rather scary how easily Lysaera gets around his experiences at the end.

The Story

In the prologue, we’re led to believe that we will be reading of events that began 500 years ago. The next bit sets up the conflict between the half-brothers and the result of Rauven’s terms when Arithon is sentenced to be sent through the Gate on the isle of Worldsend. Oopsie.

And a true nightmare for Lysaer when he finds himself trapped with Arithon in a desert in a world from which he can never leave. Along with the discovery that the two princes are the only way to restore the sunlight that has been missing from Athera for the past 500 years.

Prophecy initially says the princes are needed to beat back the mistwraith which has stolen sunlight from their world for over 500 years. The war that led to this blight has divided the country, the world into “barbarians” (the former nobility) against the townspeople. Magicians of either sex are hated and destroyed in the towns.

But it’s a prophecy that continually evolves new threads, new tangents, new difficulties. And one can’t help but feel for Lysaer when his innate sense of justice is twisted by an outside force.

The Characters

This is one of those cast of thousands so I’ll try to keep this part brief…don’t hold your breath, though!

Crown Prince Lysaer s’Illessid is the king’s son with the power of Light. Literally. Raised to rule, the stark conditions of this new world cause him to realize what he took for granted and what were his expectations. In this new world, Athera, he has no marketable skills until he learns he is a scion of the high kings of Tysan and their liege lord if the Fellowship blesses him.

Arithon s’Ffalenn is the Master of Shadows and the bastard son of Talera, Queen of Amroth, and Avar, the pirate-king of Karthan. And half-brother to Lysaer. Both are grandsons of the High Mage of their old world. No matter which world, he wants nothing to do with being a king. He wants only to be allowed his music. But in Athera, he is the last living heir to the High Kingship of Rathain. In Athera, they are both the mistwraith’s bane.

The Fellowship of Seven is based in Althain Tower and consists of six sorcerers: Sethvir is the Warden of Althain; Asandir the Kingmaker who spends the most time with the princes (and why Wurts couldn’t give him a name that was more distinct from Arithon’s!!); Verrain is a spellbinder and the Guardian of Mirthlvain; Traithe is the sorcerer who suffered closing the original Gate through which the mistwraith invaded; Kharadmon; and, Luhaine. These last two become discorporate after performing heroic rescues. All are sworn to uphold balance and enlightened thought.

Dakar is the Mad Prophet who seems to act as servant to Arithon. He’s a lazy drunkard who never shuts up and I just want to off the jerk. Think of him as the comic relief.

The fellowship seems to be the ruling group, at least magically, on this world with the Koriathain in a sort of friendly opposition. Kind of like the CIA and the FBI…I think.

The Koriathain is an intolerant order of enchantresses/witches with Lirenda the First Enchantress to the Prime of the Koriani Senior Circle, Morriel. Lirenda is a rather nasty woman with a passion to rule and that seems to be her only emotion. Morriel has a more judicious approach. Elaira is one of their enchantresses with the usual rank-and-file tasks except she has a rebellious nature and she contrives to meet Arithon. The order’s intolerance will create problems.

Felirin the Scarlet is a minstrel the brothers come across early in the book; I suspect his sole purpose is to provide Athiron with his purpose at the end of this particular installment. Halliron is the Masterbard. Maenalle s’Gannley has held the throne as Steward of the Land until a king shall come again. The Earls of Camris are one of the noble families who have preserved the royal line’s treasures. Stieven s’Valerient is the earl of the north, Warden of Ithamon and Regent for the Prince of Rathian. Lady Dania is his wife; Jieret is his son and heir. Caolle is the war captain for Lord Stieven as well as the man who raised him when his father died. Good thing he’s had the practice.

Lord Governor Morfett of Etarra is furious at being told a king will be crowned and take his place over them. Diegan is the lord commander of the Etarra guard and teams up with Lysaer. Lady Talith is Diegan’s sister. While she is attracted to Lysaer, I think she has a preference for Arithon. Gnudsog is a field captain under Lord Diegan. Pesquil commands the headhunters with their peculiar brand of horror.

The Paravians are a group of well, I’ll call them “supernaturals”: centaurs, unicorns, and sunchildren. They are in a sort of exile and will not be able to return if the mistwraith is not defeated. Soon. The King of Amroth is a major asshole and father to Lysaer. His wife, Queen Talera, refused to present him with another child if he intended to use and abuse Lysaer. Ath is the deity both sides of both worlds call on…much like we call on God in “our” world.

The Cover and Title

The background is lilac and pale, pale pinks of clouds and a Celtic-knotted archway guarded by a pair of demon-like creatures on carved pedestals with a circular inset of a haloed mountain with a sword bisecting the circle. It’s appropriate for the story with all the details that don’t really say anything.

The title is true enough…it’s The Curse of the Mistwraith that has created all the problems in this alternate world.